Northeastern Forests

I recently finished reading The Hidden Life of Trees, a profoundly interesting book that taught me something new about the forests and the tress around me than I’d ever thought possible.  The relationship of trees to the fungal network they’re connected to, the way the support each other with sugar through that network.  How they migrate over the years.  Incredible book.

Of course, it got me thinking about the forests around me.  I’ve long appreciated the forests of the Northeast United States and Eastern Canada.  Driving north through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Western Massachusetts you ride through miles and miles of forest.  Upstate New York, for all it’s farmland, is still, or rather once again heavily wooded.  Even Connecticut and Rhode Island have heavy percentages of their land wooded.

Encroaching developments eat into this magnificent green blanket, and the trees that once stood where developments are going up end up as firewood, lumber, bark mulch or paper products.  A little piece of me dies when I see lots being cleared.  I’m not opposed to development, I just greatly prefer the woods.

I was talking to a friend of mine about a place where we once camped on New Year’s Eve.  We drove deep into the woods as far as his car could go in the deep snow and hiked in to a favorite spot of his.  We lit a bonfire and drank beer and listened to the coyotes in the still night.  I woke up in the middle of the night to embers melting into the plastic outer shell of my sleeping bag as my buddy stoked the fire up and howled at the coyotes.  We still laugh about that night almost 30 years later.  He mentioned to me that it’s now a development with hundreds of houses.

I imagine that’s how the Native Americans felt when they watched the deep forests that generations walked through were felled for ship masts and houses.  Roads were cut in, and the sprawl began, rapidly displacing those who came before.  Through it the trees survived to fight another day.  Where once a farmer’s field lay claim to the land a forest has reclaimed it.  Most of the forests I drive through as I travel New England are new growth – reclaiming the land over the last century or so.  There’s a measure of hope in that, balanced with caution.